There are four major expenses you need to deal with when you put a book out: the cover, editing, formatting, and promotion.
*I'm still figuring out where and how to get the best book covers, and even how to evaluate if a cover will or will not sell books, but one thing I'm confident about is that while you can get a cover for less than twenty bucks (or free with some Photoshop-fu), quality still costs. I'm continuing to budget 300-400 clams per cover, and if that changes it'll be because I can afford to spend more.
*I had been paying for e-book formatting after getting frustrated with all the home-brew options, but I've found that Scrivener does a great job and isn't hard to use, so I'll be doing it myself that way from now on. Even better, Scrivener is free for the first 30 discrete days of use, so if you only use it to make e-books and get the job done over the course of a day you're not paying anything for your first 30 releases.
*Proofreading (and to a lesser extent line editing) is now free. It takes kind of a sketchy trick to make this work, but if you're making a bid for respectability you might be in the wrong place. There's a service called Tutor.com that you can use for free at many public libraries. You don't even need to go in person, you can access it from your library's web site. The proofreading feature on Tutor.com is meant for academic papers, but it works just fine if you send in your manuscript in five-to-ten page chunks. I've tried this with the rough drafts of books I already paid to have edited, and found that I actually got better results with two passes through tutor.com than I got with a fairly expensive editing service.
*Promotion is still something that I'm figuring out. Book Barbarian and Fussy Librarian are still good investments, as is Bookbub if you can get them to accept you. I've also heard good things about Book Butterfly, although I haven't had a chance to try them out yet, and plan on doing more direct advertising on Amazon when the school year is rolling again and I've got a little more spare cash. Not all of those things necessarily have to happen right when the book gets released, however, and I'm wondering if it makes more sense to think of them as ongoing expenses, rather than things you do right when the book comes out and then cease to worry about.
So that's it. The good news is that these changes make the initial release of each project considerably less expensive. The bad news is that there are more ongoing expenses, but the bad news isn't actually that bad. If you've got any questions or have had luck with any methods I haven't mentioned here, please let me know!
Back to writing now. Chugachugachuga.